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Alzheimer & Dementia Care

Maintaining Healthy Relationships in Dementia and Alzheimer’s

old patient swinging happily

The diagnosis of any disease affects a person’s life overall. Your lifestyle, personality and social circles, all get affected just by a single diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is an incurable illness. It gradually affects a person’s ability to function normally by slowly killing away brain cells. A person with Alzheimer’s not only gets affected mentally but also physically.

Alzheimer’s disease or dementia when diagnosed can affect a person in numerous ways. It takes away the brain’s ability to remember, comprehend and process information. People with dementia may find it difficult to maintain their social circles, get chores done independently, or make decisions that require judgments, etc. Alzheimer’s may also negatively affect a person’s relationships.

Effects of Alzheimer’s on Relationships:

A friend in need is a friend indeed, they say. Tough times in a person’s life help to differentiate between fair-weather friends and people who are there to genuinely support when you hit a rock bottom in life. The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s may change the dynamics of the relationships between the patient and the people around them. Including the patient, the family and close ones around may also take time to absorb and adjust to this sad news. For some, it might be a tough pill to swallow. They may find it hard to come to terms with it and may prefer avoidance as the easy way out. However, they may come around once they find appropriate coping mechanisms.

Similarly, there may be people who might prefer exiting your life altogether after the diagnosis. Fair-weather friends, like we said, may not find you to be the same person as before and may cut off ties. They may find it uncomfortable to cope with you or your declining health.

Then there would be people who will be supportive and would grant you their utmost help and encouragement through your journey. Your immediate family may extend full support and may even change the structure of how things go about in the family to make your journey as comfortable as possible.

Change in attitudes of the people around may be overwhelming or hurtful for the patient. Feelings of being left out and abandoned may start seeping in, driving the patient in depression. Episodes of anxiety, depression, and frustration may result in social isolation and aloofness. The patient may develop a fear of social interactions which may further push the patient into avoiding social relations altogether. This situation may aggravate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s since maintaining healthy social connections helps delay the cognitive decline inherent to the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease may also cause a person’s duties and obligations to take a shift. Someone who took the lead in things before may have to take the backseat after a diagnosis. Since Alzheimer’s gradually takes a toll on your mental capabilities, you might find that people may be reluctant to put you in decision making positions. Family discussions or problems may be resolved without your feedback. They may also hesitate in allowing you to function independently and you might find people assisting you in all of your daily tasks.

As a result, patients may start feeling frustrated and negative about the people around. Fear of being too dependent on the family or caregiver may make the patient bitter and negative. As a consequence, patients with Alzheimer’s may push people away or avoid being too much around them.

Alzheimer’s may also have an impact on your sexual relations. Frustration and depression may reduce your urge to have sexual contact. It may also result in a loss of interest in intimacy and sex. Being vocal and communicating your feelings with your partner may assist in a better understanding of the situation. Accepting that changes will occur over time and finding new ways to connect on an intimate level may aid in maintaining a healthy relationship.

Coping Up with the Negative Effects

The effects may be too overwhelming for the patient at the start but coping up with them is inevitable to ensure a smooth journey through the disease. Man is a social animal. Social interactions are mandatory for the mind to stay sane. Healthy interactions and developing new connections are known to help slow down the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Hence, it is necessary to have a circle of supportive family and friends around you.

To counter all the negative impacts Alzheimer’s has on the patients’ relationships, certain coping mechanisms can be put in place. First off, realizing that it is okay for people to misunderstand you or your condition during this phase can help you come to terms with the changing attitudes of the people. In the initial stages of the disease, one must brace themselves for the changes one will have to go through in the future because of this illness. Giving people the benefit of the doubt when evaluating their behaviors may help alleviate some of the negative emotions building inside. Staying positive and thinking good thoughts will help keep depression and frustration at bay.

Also, communicating what you are feeling with the people around may help in better understanding for both parties. Sharing what you are experiencing and feeling may help the people around you empathize with you more effectively. Talking over where and how you need help may make it easier for your loved ones to extend support when required and not assist you unnecessarily.

Alzheimer’s can be a frustrating disease. Seeing yourself deplete slowly, day after day can be depressive. However, showing love and gratitude to the people in support of you may strengthen the relationships even more.

Additionally, joining Alzheimer’s support clubs and meeting people going through similar journeys as you, can help lessen some of the negativities brought about by the disease. Meeting new people and maintaining new social connections may help in coping up with the loss of old friends. You may also feel more understood around similar people and it may help in dealing with the many consequences of Alzheimer’s.

Maintaining healthy relationships in Alzheimer’s is necessary to ensure a smooth journey through the disease. Support of family and friends is vital in coping with any problem. Hence, it is important to ensure that you keep your loved ones close to you during these trying times.

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